A strong opinion mixed with some public backlash is nothing new to Dan Dakich. You could probably even say that’s what makes him great as a sports talk host radio, seeing as how he’s not afraid to take on anybody or anything. But no matter how that mentality or tone come across to you, or no matter how many times you’ve seen a story about Dakich being in a Twitter feud or serving a short suspension for coming after someone, internally, he’s not the pain in the ass some have made him out to be. In fact it’s just the opposite.
Going all the way back to his coaching days at Bowling Green University, Dakich has made it a point to be a part of the local community. He believes his platform as a radio host, as well as a former Indiana basketball player and coach, is one that can be used to do a lot of good. Though it’s a little uncomfortable for Dakich to talk about the good he’s doing, you better believe he’s making a lot of positive things happen.
“I’m really proud of the new bike campaign me and my wife created,” said Dakich. “We were driving down the street and saw three kids, two of them had bikes and one didn’t, and I said that’s bullshit. We have to get kids some bikes. So we decided to find kids that need bikes and to go out and give it to them. Sometimes out of our own pocket. We’re partnering with the Indiana Sports Corp., which is the organization that brings the Super Bowl and Final Four to Indy. We’re going to make this thing massive. I’m feeling a little uncomfortable talking about what a good guy I am,” he laughs.
Sure, maybe Dakich will strongly criticize a player during a TV broadcast for poking an opponent in the eye, but he’s not from the cookie cutter mold of other color commentators. Regardless, don’t think he’s just some loud jerk behind a mic. He’s always real with the audience, which should be appreciated more it sometimes is.
How did this all start? How did the guy who will happily tell you that he once held Michael Jordan to 13 points in an NCAA Tournament game become one of the best hosts the state of Indiana has to offer? Well, oddly enough it began with a week-long audition while on pain meds.
The year was 2008 and Dakich had just been informed by Indiana University they weren’t going to lift the interim tag and hire him as the full-time head coach. He’d been a coach for nearly his entire adult life and gave so much to IU over the span of several years, but the time was right to seek a new passion. Luckily for Dakich, he didn’t realize at the time just how right the timing really was.
He showed a natural ability for the industry while doing coaches shows on TV for Fox Sports Ohio. He was funny, engaging and entertaining. So much so, that a friend he had from college, who was the program director at WPIC in Indianapolis, told Dakich that when his coaching days were over, he should give radio a shot. So, after cleaning out his office inside Assembly Hall in Bloomington, that thought came into his head. He then decided to reach out to his old friend.
“The day Indiana hired Tom Crean my son and I were cleaning out my locker in the coach’s office,” Dakich said. “My daughter didn’t want me to get the Indiana job and my kids didn’t really want me to coach, so I thought, ‘The hell with it, I’ll call Kent Sterling!’ I called him and said, hey, I don’t really want to coach, you got any openings?”
Just like a coach drawing up a perfect inbounds play, Dakich timed his call perfectly. Sterling had just decided to replace Colin Cowherd for a local show in Indy. Dakich would have the opportunity to audition with Mark Boyle, the current play-by-play voice of the Indiana Pacers.
“It’ll be 12 years in September,” Dakich said. “I got really lucky because it happened to be the perfect timing.”
The only problem was Dakich was fresh off a terrible knee infection that nearly killed him. That meant he needed pain meds to make it through the day, which also means he did a full week of shows while on them. Needless to say, he made it through and landed the job. There’s no telling what Dakich said on the air while on pain meds, but 107.5 The Fan owes it to the rest of world to release the tapes for all to hear.
For a host that puts himself out there as much as Dakich does, having a PD that’s in your corner is invaluable. When the suits get mad about something that’s said, you need to know the guy in charge is going to have your back. That’s exactly what Jeff Rickard is to Dakich at The Fan.
“He’s fantastic,” Dakich said. “We’ve been through a bunch. Here’s what I like about Jeff: he gives you input, both good and bad. Sometimes I have a tendency to get too political, like, I’ll say why doesn’t everyone just shut the hell up? I’m not on either side, I’m not a conservative or a Democrat, and he’ll tell me it’s great but that I went too long with it. He’s really good, because he’s a pro. Jeff is a pro. He’s a pro broadcaster and he has a passion for our station to get better.
“This is something I never really grasped as a coach, but he really believes in the ‘it’s the process’ thing. I wanted to win this game today, this practice today. He’s like, ‘Look, we just need to make our station better. Just keep getting better.’ The feedback that I’ve gotten from him is fantastic. Everyone wants feedback, we all like to know when we’re doing something well. I personally like to know when I f**ked something up. He’ll tell me. He’ll say, look, you went too long, or you’ve got to make sure you hit the outs. He’ll show you where it is that you didn’t hit the outs or where you started arguing with somebody and lost listenership. I got to tell you that’s help me out a ton.”
After nearly 12 years of being on the air in Indianapolis, Dakich is engrained into the local community. But it wasn’t long ago that he had another opportunity to take a job at a station in Chicago. Dakich grew up in the Chicago area and listened religiously to WLS while shooting baskets in the driveway. The opportunity seemed too good to pass up. But money always talks.
“Well, the decision was money (laughs),” Dakich said. “I’ll be honest with you, Chicago made me a great deal, and I never imagined in a million years that that my station would match it. But I had a clause in my contract that gave them 10 days to match. Quite frankly I figured with the money that I’d be gone.
“When I made the offer I was thrilled but when my station matched I was equally as thrilled, because I love being in Indy. Do I always see myself in Indy? Sure, I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me.”
Life is good for Dakich these days. He’s got a great radio show at a great station, one of the best PD’s you’ll find, and a TV career that’s really taken off. Sure he’s opinionated and it’s even likely it’ll land him in hot water again at some point, but just know that he’s working at it every day to be better.
“Sometimes I say stupid shit and don’t live up to that,” Dakich said. “Sometimes I hurt people because of my mouth. But I’m trying to do better.”
Media Noise – Episode 44
This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.
Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio
“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”
Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon. Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight.
Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.
A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show. Especially in sports.
Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.
On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.
First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.
On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly. Never interrupt the guest with an ID.
Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.
“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”
In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.
We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up. He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.
Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard. It was a really inciteful chat. Never was on the podcast.
Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.
“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”
“Have you seen a life for you after football?”
“How much do you hate a certain player?”
All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.
Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.
I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway. The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.
I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.
Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.
Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.
Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.
(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)
The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming.
Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks.
They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.
Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.
Quality shines through the speakers. The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.
The podcast industry is continually evolving. Radio needs to evolve as well. Then, it can be a fair fight.
National Voices Can Work For Local Clients
“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”
Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.
I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.
In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.
Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area. The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen.
Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!
If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.
Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it.
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